Freedom was the battlecry of the sixties. Freedom from war, from the social pressures exerted by the older generation, and perhaps even freedom from oneself. The goal was to live in an uninhibited environment where experimentation of all sorts could thrive. It was within the context of this "hippie generation" that lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as "acid" on the street, came to pervade the lives of millions of American youth. The best known of all psychedelic drugs, LSD had a profound effect on the outlook of the counterculture that emerged on the streets of San Francisco in the sixties. It gave people "freedom from the restraints of ordinary consciousness and everyday sorts of socialized behavior" (Debold and Leaf 1967). As a result of LSD's saturation of American society and the negative connotations that came with it's rampant abuse, LSD was categorized as a schedule one drug, indicating that it had no accepted medical use in the U.S. Despite this claim, many researchers have asserted that LSD has proven to be a useful aid in psychotherapy and in other settings as well. This issue is one that has stirred controversy and many remain skeptical to it's genuine benefits. The objective of this paper is to understand LSD and it's effects, as well as to present a discussion on possible benefits of it's use in psychotherapy.
The Discovery of LSD
LSD is a semisynthetic preparation derived from ergot, which grows as a parasite on rye wheat and other grains (Snyder 1986). The hallucinogenic properties of this substance were first discovered by Albert Hofmann in 1943 when he accidentally took in some of the drug during it's purification and crystallization. What Hofmann actually took in was LSD-25, so named because it was the twenty-fifth semisynthetic ergot he prepared by combining lysergic acid with various amines (Snyder 1986). He reported being overcome by "unusual sensations" and described the experience as an "uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors" (Snyder 1986). Realizing that these intense feelings were caused by the chemical that he had just synthesized, Hofmann returned to the lab and set out to confirm his speculations. Little did he know that his discovery would have a major impact on the perspective of millions of people just two decades ahead.
The General Effects of LSD
LSD has been known to induce a wide variety of effects. The intensity of the experience is dependent on the size of the dose, the mental state of the user, and the setting in which the drug is used (WWW1). It is an extremely potent substance and can exert a response at a dosage of a tenth of a milligram (Snyder 1986). At greater dosages, the intense feelings become more pronounced and last for an extended period of time. Once ingested, the LSD "trip" is uncontrollable and cannot come to an end by the will of the user (WWW1). LSD is not strictly...